TEACH THEM HOW TO THINK (process based) NOT JUST WHAT TO THINK (product based)
Romans 12:2 says, "Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is." (NLT)
One of our jobs as a parent is to do just that. Not merely copy the behaviors and parenting patterns of those (even good intentioned) people around us, but to rethink some stuff. I think we need to rethink how it is that we are teaching our kids to make good choices. If we don't want to raise teens who follow every idea or thought their friends or this world musters up and calls cool, then it’s imperative to introduce this at pre-school.
The key word here is "why". This is not an issue of "what" we let our kids do or "how" it is that they will do it. It's largely about helping our kids to answer the "why would I do this or that?" question on their own in a manner that reflects solid reasoning and good choices.
As little ones, this means:
- Don't just provide healthy snacks, help them understand why one food is better for them than another. "My mom doesn't let me eat that" is not going to last as a de-motivator for the long haul. When our kids understand that they want to have a strong body and that certain foods won't help them do that, it's a better parenting process that leads to the same behavior we could have simply forced anyway.
- Limit the "because I said so" to a last resort parenting card you play. Even if I must use that phrase to gain obedience today, I must also explain how I came to that conclusion at some point with them in ways they might understand. A 5 year old that knows not to cross the street without looking is great. A 5 year old who knows why you don't cross the street without looking is better.
- Helping our kids decide why a tv show, music choice, or movie might not be the best option for them instead of just ruling it out.
- Allowing our kids to be themselves. Don't demand that they do everything your way, just demand that their way needs to have solid reasoning. So if you want socks folded and they want them tossed in a drawer, let them argue why their way works before forcing your way upon them. Help them learn the process and articulate solid reasoning in decision making. This will be critical when the issues is not how do I organize my socks, but instead who will I date or how do I want to decide what to do on Friday night. The ability to reason out a solid decision is a mission critical life skill we must all work towards developing in our kids.